The UWC Refugee Initiative - Taking action for equality, justice and human dignity
By Molly Fassbender, UWCSEA Foundation
To masses of cheering supporters around the world, 70 years ago today on December 10, 1948, the United National General Assembly adopted a landmark document enshrining principles of equality, justice and dignity for all - the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UWC community has much to be proud of for their work in human rights and today we shine a spotlight on the UWC Refugee Initiative, which is changing the lives of young people living in the most dire of situations.
The UWC Refugee Initiative is a joint programme between the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and UWC with the annual goal of offering 100 UWC scholarships to students of refugee or stateless status. In 2017, UNHCR estimated that more than half of the world’s school-age refugee children don’t have access to education, and UNESCO found that this lack of access heightens the risk of violence and conflict, creating a vicious cycle of lost educational opportunities, conflict and displacement for decades.
The Refugee Initiative is rooted in UWC’s commitment to make education a force for peace. Currently, funds have been raised internationally to offer nearly 50 UWC Refugee Scholarships every year. The UWCSEA community has funded four refugees to attend a UWC, some scholarships are made possible by pooling together funds from tens or hundreds of smaller donations, whilst others are made from the generosity of a single large gift.
Learn more about some of the refugee scholars studying at UWCs:
Sharon, Class of ‘20, Refugee Scholar from Sri Lanka (pictured above)
Despite living through the civil war in Sri Lanka which tore her family apart, with her father missing and the family internally displaced, Sharon’s horizons have dramatically changed as she is now studying for an IB scholarship at UWC Atlantic.
Nancy, Class of ‘19, Refugee Scholar from South Sudan
Nancy, from South Sudan, is studying for her IB Diploma at UWC Dilijan.
“After I joined UWC I began to feel so different, my nature has changed, I began to think differently and care about everything.
It is just miraculous how I found myself engaging with people from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds - all of us embracing the same movement. This opportunity is not only fulfilling my dreams but also giving my family and my community hope of future change.”
Mahmoud, Class of ‘19, Refugee Scholar from Palestine
Palestinian refugee, Mahmoud, was overwhelmed to have been selected by the UWC National Committee for Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon. In mid-2017, he flew to Europe to begin his new life at UWC Mostar, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“UWC has expanded my knowledge and given me different perspectives on issues. It changed me to be more understanding and encouraged me to look at each side of the story...I feel that I am the voice of all of those Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, who are still deprived of their basic human rights and have no one to hear their suffering.”
Lydia, refugee scholar from South Sudan, Class of ‘20
Lydia, another refugee from South Sudan, will soon be starting a fresh chapter of her life in Bosnia and Herzegovina at UWC Mostar.
Today, let us honour the monumental achievement that is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and keep working to create more opportunities for some of the world’s most needy young people; join us in supporting the UWC Refugee Initiative and help to shine a light in the darkness to transform young people’s lives.